Energy-efficient technologies developed with people in mind

May 26, 2014 by Marlene Cimons
A good network for fast-charging electric cars may reduce problems associated with limitations in driving range. Credit: Ricardo Daziano, Cornell University

When engineers design environmentally-friendly cars, such as all-electric or hybrid vehicles, they often focus primarily on their technological features. Ricardo Daziano believes they also should consider the "human" element.

By this, he means they need to keep in mind the kinds of things actually want from a "green car," and how these preferences will influence their buying decisions. While technology is important, he believes that engineers no longer can focus on it in isolation. It's not enough to create technically sound solutions if society isn't willing to adopt them.

While many consumers support the concept of cars, this doesn't always mean they will buy them. "This technology often is more expensive, so one question becomes whether consumers are willing to spend a lot of money now for cost-saving benefits that will come later?" he says.

"It's an energy paradox," he adds. "You do have the savings, but they come later. People like to have money now, rather than in savings. It's human nature. It may be difficult to sell the idea that this vehicle costs more now, but will save money in the future."

Daziano, assistant professor in the school of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, who teaches economics, has a social science background and believes that technical solutions for society's problems, such as the need for sustainable transportation, must reach beyond the technology into the psyche.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientist is studying human behavior and how it relates to consumer decisions about energy efficient, . His research potentially could provide important insights for policy makers, transportation planners, as well as for automobile manufacturers in advancing future sustainable vehicle designs.

Ricardo Daziano stands next to a full-electric vehicle in Rome, Italy. Credit: Ricardo Daziano, Cornell University

He already has learned, for example, that one of the reasons the Toyota Prius has become so successful is because it is instantly recognizable as a hybrid, unlike those made by other manufacturers which fail to stand out, "Other car makers have hybrids, but they look like their other models," Daziano says. "People want a car that will tell the world: 'I'm green."'

In other preliminary results, he has found that women appear likely to spend up to $2,000 more than men for an energy efficient car.

Daziano is conducting his research under a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, which he received earlier this year. The award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization. He is receiving $410,000 over five years.

The project is studying data already collected by research centers in Germany, Italy, Canada, and California where scientists conducted consumer surveys asking people about their car buying choices, and how they arrived at them. Daziano is using a special computer algorithm to analyze them.

"I'm trying to determine the tradeoffs people make," he says. "How they process this information. Each car has different characteristics, and I want to see how they combine them to decide on the car they want." Ultimately, "we will be able to forecast how people will react if we make changes in the cars," he adds.

For example, "people may like the idea of a 100 percent electric car, but they still may hesitate to buy one because of its limitations," he says. "All-electric cars have a limited driving range, which is the maximum you can drive in the car, and there is this concept we call 'range anxiety,' when you are concerned that the battery will die and you will not reach your destination. Also, we do not yet have a lot of charging stations available, certainly not like gas stations, which increases the anxiety."

He hopes the information he gathers will influence both auto makers and . "If I can determine from the point of view of the consumer the optimal driving range that will make them comfortable with an all-electric car, then hopefully the engineers will be able to come up with a battery that offers more," he says.

One research challenge is to find a way to incorporate consumers' wide-ranging and different tastes. "Consumers are heterogeneous," he says. "There are people who prefer luxury cars, others prefer power and space, while others care about color. That's why every maker has a range of vehicles they offer. They need to address many things in their models.

"If everyone behaved the same, these would be easy problems to solve," he adds.

He already has begun to introduce these ideas into the engineering curriculum, where students "need to understand that we are doing these technologies for people," he says.

"They need to consider people in the design process," he adds. "We are splicing this into discussions in the classroom, for both graduates and undergraduates. They were not aware of this social component of engineering. Modeling consumer preferences is something completely new for engineering students."

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Lex Talonis
2.3 / 5 (3) May 26, 2014
'range anxiety" - why does everything from Emerika have to have some psychological traumatism attached to it.

How about rephrasing this as "I can't be fucked running out of power, in the middle of "power supply" no where - with all the bullshit and hassles this entails."

Substituting the practical considerations with some neurotic teminology - is a practice of the moronic American media.
_ilbud
5 / 5 (2) May 26, 2014
Actually you twat it's a perfectly cromulent expression.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 26, 2014
"they need to keep in mind the kinds of things consumers actually want from a "green car," and how these preferences will influence their buying decisions."

What a concept, making stuff people want to buy!

"The CEO of Fiat Chrysler said he hopes that people don't buy his company's electric car, the Fiat 500e, which he is forced to sell at a loss because of state and federal mandates."

Read more: http://dailycalle...2qFZh0Yx

I like the Leaf, but it requires 20 hours to recharge at home.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 26, 2014
What a concept, making stuff people want to buy!

Try to understand how technology and products are developed. in the early stages of a market you have to make products that work at all. At that time there is no room for frills and customers have to adapt to the product (think about the early days of home computers for example)

The luxury of design comes only later when the product is so cheap/ubiquitous that comfort actually matters as a point of sale.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 26, 2014
no room for frills


That must be why Japanese cars sell much better than German cars.
The Japanese design for their customers.
The really sad part, from the POV of the US is that it was an American, Deming, who taught them how.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 27, 2014
That must be why Japanese cars sell much better than German cars.
The Japanese design for their customers.

Japanese cars sold better because they took advantage of the psychological kink mentioned in the article: People want to save a little money now rather than a lot later.
So japanese manufacturers (in the past) made cars that were cheap to buy and expensive to maintain with exorbitant replacement part prices...while german manufacturers (in the past) made cars that were expensive to buy but so high quality that they wouldn't break.
(The japanese way was like for drug users: "the first one is free, then you're hooked", while the german idea was to give "made in germany" type quality)
Again: This was already WAY past the point when adding frills was possible. In the early days of automobiles they were not so user friendly.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 27, 2014
Today the above is not entirely true anymore, as making quality cars is not so difficult anymore.
Today german cars are just expensive - and have no quality advantage.
(Though there still are some quality standards. Note the failed Daimler-Chrysler venture when it turned out that you just can't make even mediocre quality cars in the US, because the mindset of the american worker is just not up to par. Volkswagen had their own mishap when they tried to move part of their manufacturing to Romania. Same problem. Workers are cheap, but quality dropped through the floor)
The japanese have succesfully integrated worker indentification with their product while keeping production costs low. Though with the standard of living shifting in Japan that is starting to change (note that quality japanese cars are getting progressively more expenisve)
mzso
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
People are stupid. What we need is to cancel out their idiocy from product development.
hangman04
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
Today is a more about consumerism. All big companies have fallen a vicious cycle (in many fields not just automotive). From what i observe on the market the companies are not concerned with long term feasibility of a car, because they focus to make the customer change it every 2-3 years although that car might work at the right parameters for at least another 3 years. Also u may see that except facelifts there are almost none differences inbetween car generation, just 1-2 new trendy optional packages. For a while, during the credit boom it all worked well and all companies expanded toward new markets and opened new facilities considering this will go on for eternity. But guess what? the crisys came, average to high consumers started being cautious, while low income started buy 2nd hand 3-5y old cars which were cheap and all over the place especially in the new markets. And now companies are running on debt and try downsizing cause the recipe doesn't work anymore.....
hangman04
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
As regarding quality, considering that the production is automatized in most areas, it all comes down to materials used and quality control in my opinion. You can be sure there is a quality difference between a $10000 car and a $20000 one. But that difference is way less between a $50000 and a $80000 one. Most of it is marketing and exploitation if the human psych, which again i consider it to be our own fault cause we let ourselves fulled. Regarding quality decrease from one facility to another it mostly depends on the learning curve and the experience of the working force. Ofc if you bring in Romania a high tech manufacturing to a labor force who has never worked in such environment there will be a gap, comparing a 50y old facility from Germany, +/- some cultural differences which also bring new challenges. But look at Renault, which has its own Romanian brand and has made it a hit especially in developed markets. I doubt that the low price what the only factor....
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
Toyota designates a product manager, with significant decision authority. One such manager for their pickup traveled to the customer sites around the world to find out how their product is used, what features were liked or were needed.
These features were then designed into the product.
Ingersoll Rand's Cyclone Grinder is a classic case.
When there is real competition, if you don't design products the customer wants, someone else will.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
But that difference is way less between a $50000 and a $80000 one

There are a few factors beside quality that make up the price of a car (to be sure: "image" is one of those...just look at Apple products).
For the high end cars it's also a matter of economy of scale. When you move to high price sectors you build less cars. But you still have the entire range of ancillary costs (distribution network, advertising, development, safety testing, ...) So the quality increment gets smaller by necessity.

w income started buy 2nd hand 3-5y old cars

The poor/rich divide is getting bigger. The demand for (up front) cheap cars increases (so does the demand for top of the line luxury vehicles). The middle class is disappearing - and consequently the incentive for making "good products at reasonable prices".
Eikka
3 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
"It's an energy paradox," he adds. "You do have the savings, but they come later. People like to have money now, rather than in savings. It's human nature. It may be difficult to sell the idea that this vehicle costs more now, but will save money in the future."


There is no paradox because the vehicles don't actually save any money.

If money was the main point, then one could simply buy a cheaper more economical regular car. The new clean hybrids and EVs and other dodads simply cost so much money up-front that they cannot compete with standard cheap cars and/or second hand vehicles even when you discount the fuel prices far ahead into the future.

Call back in 15-20 years when fuel prices have actually doubled and the price of these technologies halved. Then you might have an argument. The green car you buy today will not last you long enough to see the savings realized.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 27, 2014
There are a few factors beside quality that make up the price of a car

Including govt regulations like CAFE standards that force companies to make cars people don't really want to buy.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
The new clean hybrids and EVs and other dodads simply cost so much money up-front that they cannot compete with standard cheap cars and/or second hand vehicles

A reason for that could be that companies are trying to recoup their development investments - which were considerably higher for new EVs than for a small increment to their regular vehicles - without knowing how long they can milk that particular cow (if at all). So they try to get their money back as quickly as possible by marketing these vehicles at outrageous prices.

that force companies to make cars people don't really want to buy.

I'd think people would love to buy cars with adequate range and price. Car manufactureres seem to loathe to accept a smaller profit margin, though (and don't forget that most auto-makers are heavily invested in oil companies and vice versa - for obvious reasons. So there is a bit of a conflict of interests going on)
barakn
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
There are a few factors beside quality that make up the price of a car

Including govt regulations like CAFE standards that force companies to make cars people don't really want to buy.

Yeah, people hate getting good gas mileage. It's not CAFE's fault, it's still the Section 179 business equipment deductions that allow for a $25,000 writeoff on trucks and SUVs over 6000 lbs but only $11,160 for vehicles under that weight. That's what leads to a distorted market.
Eikka
3 / 5 (1) May 29, 2014
So they try to get their money back as quickly as possible by marketing these vehicles at outrageous prices.


It's not really milking it when you're only selling a handful of units a year. They're mostly doing it to appease the regulators in certain US states that require them to sell some amount of low emission cars in order to have a permission to sell regular cars.

Yeah, people hate getting good gas mileage.


Gas prices aren't really the issue when the US drivers can still afford to drive three times as much with cars that achieve half the average mileage than their European counterparts.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) May 29, 2014
Gas prices aren't really the issue when the US drivers can still afford to drive three times as much with cars that achieve half the average mileage than their European counterparts.


Why are fuel prices so high in Euroland?

Here is a car with the customer in mind:

http://www.eliomotors.com/
PPihkala
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2014
Why are fuel prices so high in Euroland?

Here in Finland 95E gasoline is around 1.60 euros per liter. That is almost 8 dollars per gallon. The answer to your question is tax that is about 75% of the price. What kind of car would you drive at 8 dollars per gallon?
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 31, 2014
Why are fuel prices so high in Euroland?

Here in Finland 95E gasoline is around 1.60 euros per liter. That is almost 8 dollars per gallon. The answer to your question is tax that is about 75% of the price. What kind of car would you drive at 8 dollars per gallon?

Who gets the tax?
When I was in Soumi in '83, taxes on cars used for taxis were low or non-existent so most taxis were Volvos and Mercedes.
Taxes on personal cars were high so my friend had a Soviet Fiat. Where does the revenue go?
mzso
1 / 5 (1) Jun 01, 2014
Who gets the tax?
When I was in Soumi in '83, taxes on cars used for taxis were low or non-existent so most taxis were Volvos and Mercedes.
Taxes on personal cars were high so my friend had a Soviet Fiat. Where does the revenue go?

The fuel has 75% tax not the cars. Who do you think collects the tax? The state.
Pejico
Jun 01, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Jun 01, 2014
Who gets the tax?
When I was in Soumi in '83, taxes on cars used for taxis were low or non-existent so most taxis were Volvos and Mercedes.
Taxes on personal cars were high so my friend had a Soviet Fiat. Where does the revenue go?

The fuel has 75% tax not the cars. Who do you think collects the tax? The state.


Autos are taxed.

What does the state do with the taxes?
Eikka
4 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2014
What kind of car would you drive at 8 dollars per gallon?


A cheap car.

Price of fuel is easiest to offset by reducing the investment cost of the vehicle and driving less, which often means buying second hand cars. People generally don't buy the more expensive hybrids or other hyper-economy cars because they cost more (including specialized maintenance and parts) and the savings are realized only if you drive a lot.
Jantoo
1 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2014
Every cheating was designed with some people in mind... In particular, the so-called green technologies and renewable energy sources only replace one non-renewable resource (fossil fuel) with another (metals and minerals).
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2014
In particular, the so-called green technologies and renewable energy sources only replace one non-renewable resource (fossil fuel) with another (metals and minerals).


The article you reference provides a solution to the very problem, which is using the renewable energy to recycle and reclaim the necessary materials because unlike fossil fuels, the materials in question aren't really consumed in the process of using them.

That of course reduces the effective EROEI of the energy source, which has implications for the rest of the society in terms of what living standards and complexity of society can be sustained (is it enough to sustain the necessary technology itself or will the society collapse?) but that is another open question.

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